Five Critical Character Attributes of Great Leadership with Authority

Great leaders do not need to have authority or positions of power.  There are many examples of leaders who have changed the world without any type of authority, such as Mahatma Gandhi and his Salt March in 1930, or Dr. Martin Luther King and his March on Washington in 1963. Mahatma Gandhi on Salt March in 1930They did not hold political office, or military authority.  They had no authority over employment, wages, or social services.  Yet, it was still only through authority that the laws were eventually changed to reflect their goals. Leadership may provide the motivation, but authority still holds the necessary keys to change. Dr. Martin Luther King at the March on Washington 1963

A business leader will need to have  the following five required leadership skills and the authority to be the most affective.

1. Leaders with Authority Provide Safety One of the basic services a great leader with authority provides is safety. The leader makes sure his workers are treated with respect and dignity. They will not have to fear for their person, reputation, or health from their work environment.  They will make sure that there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment that degrades and pollutes a work environment. They will make sure that employees are treated fairly for compensation and benefits.  They also open the way for others to move forward by removing barriers with their authority and influence.  Providing for this basic human need is critical for a work environment to thrive.

2. Leaders with Authority Truly Care for Others This is not something that can be faked, or avoided either.  People with authority send messages all day long that clearly represents what and who is important to them, and employees are hyper aware of these messages.

Caring also requires some personal emotional investment. I once had manager tell me that they did not ever become friends with the people they managed.  I think they meant personal friends, as in those you hang out with on the weekends, or invite over for family birthday parties.  Unfortunately, they meant it on many levels and it showed.

I have also had a leader who cared for me, who knew me well and knew many things about me personally. Its been more than 20 years ago, yet I still remember him with warm feelings. When he spoke about me to others he referenced personal details he knew about me and held me up as an example when referring to my qualities.  We were never personal friends as in the “family birthday party” type, yet I would have done anything for him.

You also do not have to be close personal social friends to have deep sincere care for other people, or those they care about. Its depends on how much you have developed your personal depth of emotional empathy that makes this possible. Every employee deserves to have those in authority over them care for them.

3. Leaders with Authority are Servants   Anciently a King named Benjamin looked upon his position as a stewardship. In his eyes his job was to serve others.  He raised his own food by his own physical labor, so he did not have to tax his people for his personal support. All his actions were flavored with his deep emotional care for the individuals of his kingdom.  The people of course loved him, how could they not.  He coined the phrase, “when you are in service of your fellow beings, you are only in service of your God.” He had both the leadership qualities and authority, and together they made for a perfect stewardship. He was the “Servant King!”George Washington George Washington is a more modern example of a servant leader. After risking everything to lead the revolutionary war, he served as president and received no salary for not one, but two terms.  Afterwards, he went back home to Mt. Vernon and lived a quiet life.  He did not make any money by serving the United States and had no desire to. An example of the “Servant Statesman”.

4. Leaders with Authority Build Others You get more of what ever you concentrate on.  If you concentrate on faults and fixing people, you get more faults.  If you concentrate on people’s strengths you will see them grow and develop more great qualities.  I have conducted performance evaluations for many years, and see them as little use if you do not use them to build employees strengths.  Looking for the good qualities in others is key to motivating them. Telling people what they need to fix is not only a waste of time, but can be very damaging if not done right. Correction is a necessary part of life, but it should be done sparingly. According to one Harvard study you have to have a minimum of 6 positive comments for every point of negative correction to keep morale positive.  This requires discipline and effort for a manager to make sure that they are a fountain of positive comments and encouragement.

If you develop a habit of giving constant positive feedback you will not need to count to make sure you are not creating a negative environment.  You will know your above the line by your very nature!

5. Leaders with Authority are Meek I learned many years ago there were two definitions of meek. The first one is related to lack of courage, as in “someone who endures abuse or punishment out of fear”.  The other is related to courage, and is “someone who suffers insult or injury without resentment or lash back”. In this article I am referring to the latter definition.  This type of meekness is related to inner moral strength and courage.  Leaders who have this rare strength welcome and are grateful for employees who protect them by letting the leader know when the leader is making a mistake. The employee does this only to the extent the leader has developed meekness.

These leaders do not pass the abusive attitudes, fears, or paranoia from others on down to their employees.  They are a filter that wrings out the dirt, but they do it in a peaceful manner that gets results. These leaders are stable emotionally, and don’t have highs and lows that employees have to constantly navigate. They are in control of their own hearts and minds and steer their own course despite what goes on around them.

Jackie Robinson is great example of someone who developed this type of meekness and self control. Jackie Robinson We have all experienced leadership that lacks one or all of these characteristics, and these examples are valuable too. They provide the dark backgrounds needed to create the clear contrasts for those bright leaders who posses these qualities.  They allow us to see more clearly and give more value to those with great character attributes.

The authority of great leaders amplifies their qualities.  Conversely, authority also amplifies the poor character qualities of leaders.  Like a poor singer trying out for American Idol who cannot hear how off key they are.  The world around them watches and cringes at their shrieking sounds and now publicized self delusion.

On the other hand, we fondly remember for years, and sometimes even generations, those who exemplify the more mature qualities that makes us human.

Its about the people!

John Tanner


2 thoughts on “Five Critical Character Attributes of Great Leadership with Authority

  1. The attributes mentioned in this article of a good leader ring true with my experience. These things don’t automatically come to mind in everyday life. I hope that reading this, I will internalize these attributes for my future experiences. Thanks for the article.


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